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Haggling over every penny no poison to Sino-Russia ties

10:24, June 23, 2011

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By Li Hongmei

President Hu Jintao just wrapped up his four-day official visit to Russia devoted to boosting ties and bilateral trade between the two countries. Media speculation before his Russia visit, however, mainly centered around a possible agreement on the gas project, which they believe would be a big trophy for President Hu and a timely gift dedicated to the 10th anniversary of Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation jointly signed in 2001.

But, it seems that certain accomplishments are just beyond attainment, and both sides finally failed to clinch a gas deal. The two sides have been bogged down in disagreements on pricing for the gas that Russian energy giant Gazprom would pump to the "energy-hungry" neighbor.

Negotiators for China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC) had earlier signaled they will pay no more than US$250 per thousand cubic meters, but Russia's gas export monopoly is still targeting a price that will make deliveries to China as profitable as those to their European clients.

Whether or not China can conclude the gas deal with Russia has nothing to do with bilateral ties. If some media seize on a special case to hype up the matter, they are just making a fuss over a trifle. In actuality, it is a fruitful trip by the Chinese president, injecting a new impetus into the continuing healthy and stable development of the Sino-Russia strategic partnership.

Unfortunately, there are still many who can hardly form a realistic and complete picture of China-Russia relations, or who see the bumpy relations between the two giants in the rigid, one-sided way, and in fragments of reminiscence.

For instance, the brotherly intimacy in 1950s, when China closely followed in the footsteps of "Big Brother" Soviet Union, who generously offered its helping hand to the then fledgling People's Republic of China. Their enmity set in following the Sino-Soviet split in 1961, and a brief border war in 1969. The hostility in between started to lessen after the death of Mao Zedong, but they still had poor relations until the fall of the Soviet Union in early 1990s.

Long gone are the times when deciding who is friend or enemy was all by ideological standards.
These days, the warming-up China-Russia ties have far surmounted the Cold War mindset, and it is no more "ideology," that is driving the bilateral ties. It's all about business. Usually accompanied by a bunch of prominent businesspeople, the top brass of both countries relentlessly tour the world and visit each other to advance their own economic interests.

More important, both countries have learnt a great deal from their own history, treating each other as equals, respecting each other's development paths and cherishing the goodwill from each other.

Today, Sino-Russia friendship takes on a new look, more mature, rational and with a more solid foundation. Russia's choice to get closer to the West and NATO will never edge China's nerves, which China always considers a positive step, conducive not only to Russia's security but to the world peace, and spells no threat for China's interests. Likewise, Russia is also ready to see the bettering China-US relations, which can help ensure a healthy international environment for Russia's development.

Furthermore, unlike the U.S., who is forever wielding the sticks of "Taiwan Issue" and "Tibet Issue" attempting to estrange and contain China, Russia goes to China more like a friend with shared strategic interests and, China and Russia are getting increasingly interdependent on each other. This also explains why China and Russia can generally arrive at agreement on many of the thorny international affairs.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of a good-neighborly treaty of friendship and cooperation, and will also usher in a recalibrated bilateral relationship characterized by more active people-to-people communication beyond the top-level visits.

In terms of relations between big powers, nothing is more important than mutual respect, as described in the 10-year-old treaty:

"China and Russia will develop the strategic cooperative partnership based on good-neighborliness, friendship, cooperation and peace, in accordance with the principles of mutual respect of each other's territorial integrity, non-aggression, non- interference in each other's internal affairs, mutual benefit and peaceful co-existence.

The two parties respect the path of political, economic, social and cultural development of the other, to ensure the long-term steady development of bilateral relations. The two sides support each other's policy to maintain national unity and territorial integrity."

The document has been guiding the steady development of Sino-Russian relations in the century and will charter a new blueprint for a more deepening, far-reaching and sustained development of bilateral ties.

The articles in this column represent the author's views only. They do not represent opinions of People's Daily or People's Daily Online.

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About this column

Li Hongmei, editor and columnist of PD Online.


Li HongLi Hong

After 19 years working for China Daily and its website, Li Hong moved to english.people.com.cn in March 2009.

Li has been a reporter and column writer, mainly on China's economy and politics.

He was graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University, and once studied in University of Hawaii and the Poynter Institute in Florida.

Dai MinJohn
Dai Min

John Milligan-Whyte and Dai Min, the executive producers and co-hosts of the Collaboration of Civilizations television series adapted by the eight books they wrote in the America-China Partnership Book Series published in English and Mandarin in 2009-2010 that created the "New School of America-China Relations." They founded the America-China Partnership Foundation and Forum in 2008 and the Center for American-China Partnership in 2005, which was recognized in 2009 as "the first American think tank to combine and integrate American and Chinese perspectives providing a complete answer for America and China's success in the 21st century."